Comment Spam – a Guide for Site Owners

Comment Spam – not just Annoying

As early as 2009, the Google Webmaster blog has indicated that comment spam is of no benefit for increasing search engine rankings and can in fact penalize both the spammer and the website unfortunate enough to receive these ‘comments’.

Surprising to learn that many years later, comment spam is still carried out by dim-witted individuals. The seek to increase their own website rankings for substandard products and services or indeed as a means of phishing or malware delivery.

As a website owner, I tend to follow Google guidelines and utilize white hat techniques for improving my rankings. It’s a slow process and I don’t expect my rankings to change overnight as much of this depends on the frequency of my posts. My ongoing projects tend to influence posting frequency. In recent years, social media has had much more of an impact on rankings and my SEO endeavors now include these activities.

As a project manager, when I started receiving irrelevant comments to my posts, I decided to tackle it in a logical manner that may be of benefit to other websites or blog owners.

Block Search Engine Indexing?

The first question posed was “how are these vegetables finding my website?” The obvious answer is by using search engines. Fine, how do I prevent certain search engines from indexing my site? There are several methods available but the simplest option was to utilize the functions of the robots.txt file.

Rather than allow every search engine to index my site, I decided to specify the top four only. I  produced a robots.txt file and uploaded to my website’s root directory using FTP. Google is your friend and robots.txt configuration info is readily available.

A review of just how many ‘bots’ or user agents are crawling my site indicated that some are Russian or run by marketing companies. I then waited a few days to see if the robots.txt file made any difference and it did. Unfortunately, some bots ignored it and continued to crawl my site. No surprise there considering their purpose is to gather e-mail addresses and site information for other spammers.

Moderation Sucks But Prevents Comment Spam

Moderating comments is a practical solution but can get tedious and extremely frustrating since upwards of 100 comments per day are common. WordPress and users of other blogging platforms have some options for moderation. You can specify keywords/URLs to block but this is generally ineffective as they constantly change their domains, wording of comments etc.

As this website is primarily concerned with writing and related activities, promoting links to fake crap hardly falls into this category. You can understand my annoyance and refusal to provide screenshots of received comments and spam.

Block Comment Spam with Captcha

Website owners typically avoid using Captcha, as it can be an annoyance for users. I tend to agree although earlier versions of the site employed it.

I would recommend altering the robots.txt file and securing comments and contact forms. It makes life a little easier and reduces e-mail spam by blocking certain search engines from crawling your site. Comments that slip through are deleted (just ensure that you receive an e-mail notification when comments are made).

I finally solved my spam issues by using a combination of free and paid solutions. Creating a suitable robots.txt file is obviously free. As this is a WordPress site, I selected solutions compatible with the platform.

My only paid security plugin is Spam Protection by Cleantalk and I can confirm it’s effective (the number blocked to date is shown on the footer). On reviewing what’s blocked, I can also confirm that all spam instances blocked were genuine. As a bonus, this is a No-Captcha solution involving a small annual charge.

There are other solutions available to prevent spam but the process involved won’t change.

Finally, time to vent against those that waste our time, those spamming b*stards that have nothing better to do than disrupt our business activities…

A Personal Message to Comment Spammers

Dear Comment Spammers,

Please be more selective in your spamming activities, as my humble site does not have the following you require. I would suggest, if you can tear yourself away from your primary activities (that must involve self-flagellation and animal abuse), that you concentrate on sites with a larger subscriber base. Rather than specify competitor sites, please perform an online search for ‘non-specific drivel’ and/or ‘manure’. This seems to be your market focus. You may think this is rather unhelpful so to balance the tone a little, allow me to offer you some practical advice.

Write in English and be specific about the topic you are commenting on. If this is not possible, contact me for a quote. At least you will have correctly written English that recipients can read before immediately discarding. I’ll happily quote or direct you to take the longest walk possible off the shortest pier in your area. My selection will depend on my mood.

Unfortunately for you, I am not dumb enough to click on URLs leading to malware or other malicious sites. In addition, bear in mind that my readers and I remain unconvinced that we need SEO services or fake branded goods from comment spammers when even this initial ‘introduction’ goes against industry best practices. If I need services or substandard products, I am more than capable of discovering both by using standard research techniques.

Best regards/ Offensive phrase,

Michael O’Dwyer

If you share or disagree with my sentiments, feel free to comment. If you need help, I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

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    • JohnnyB on November 22, 2019 at 7:07 pm
    • Reply

    What’s a white-hat solution? It isn’t summer: I can’t wear white.

    1. It’s the opposite of a black-hat solution… for indoor use.

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